The courage of empathy
I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am developing more courage, I've had to, as my empathy has taken me new places. Buddhism appeared at first, to me, all about observation. I called it the WYSIWYG religion. It appeared, at first, to be a calming religion, one that my friend Chuck advised me to continue pursuing as a treatment for my occasional panic attacks during law school.
Note that Emerson is "not afraid of falling" ... is that because he knows he won't fall, or because he knows that falling won't hurt him? Or because he isn't afraid of being hurt? Dipping retains control, whereas falling loses it.
Well, Buddhism started out as calm observations and deep breathing exercises, but then I got better at observing, and I started empathizing with whatever I was observing. More than that, I started popping out of my own head, and entering what used to be objects of my consciousness. I started feeling my consciousness expanding beyond my ego, into parts of the universe that I had not considered "me". The first time that happened, I labeled the sensations enlightenment. Then it happened again, then it happened again, and now it happens pretty much whenever I try, which makes the universe a very busy place for me!
Some parts of the universe are not happy. I've had to learn better ways of accepting that, to keep my ego from accepting responsibility for fixing everything. Because I can't fix everything. All I can do is sit within each moment, and decide within each moment how to react. Sometimes I can help via activity, sometimes via listening, sometimes via touch, sometimes via sharing, sometimes ... I can't help ... and that's OK. It isn't my pay grade to save the universe.
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